I attended a funeral Monday for an 80-year-old neighbor. It was an open-casket service, and some who paid their respects might have been surprised to see that Don was to be buried in a Cincinnati Reds jersey.
Don had been a Reds fan his whole life, his son explained in the eulogy.
It's a shame Don won't be able to watch a baseball game in person or on TV from the comfort of his home as the Reds enter the playoffs Saturday. I take solace in the thought that Don will have a great view from on high.
Residents of Southern Ohio have been cheering on the Reds for as long as professional baseball has existed. The nation's first all-professional team was the Cincinnati Base Ball Club, nicknamed the Red Stockings. The players finished the 1869 season with a 57-0 record.
Does Cincinnati have the best team in baseball this year? The World Series, which is to begin October 24, will determine that. The excitement is building.
Normally, it would be difficult to get 700,000 people spread across seven counties to agree on their favorite spot in Ohio's Second Congressional District, which I represent. But I'm pretty sure we all can agree that right now the most popular place is 100 Joe Nuxhall Way. That's the address of Great American Ball Park, home of the Cincinnati Reds.
Even those who have never visited the ballpark on the Ohio River seem overjoyed by what's been going on there. People throughout Southern Ohio have been riveted to TVs or radios during the airing of Reds games.
The local enthusiasm surrounding this baseball season rivals that of 1990, 1976, and 1975 -- when the Reds won the World Series. It's been 22 years since the Reds were world champions, and that's a lifetime for younger fans.
The Reds finished the regular season Wednesday, October 3, with 97 wins -- second best in Major League Baseball (behind only the Washington Nationals, who had 98). Highlights have included Homer Bailey's no-hitter Friday, September 28, in Pittsburgh -- a 1-0 victory that marked the first time since Tom Browning's perfect outing in 1988 that a Reds pitcher completed a game without surrendering a hit.
The 1970s were dominated by the Big Red Machine. Among the memorable players: Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, Davey Concepcion, George Foster, César Gerónimo, Ken Griffey Sr., Don Gullet, Gary Nolan, Jack Billingham, and Rawly Eastwick.
Forty years from now, will fans look back with similar awe on this season's roster? Today's stars include Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, Scott Rolen, Ryan Hannigan, Todd Frazier, Ryan Ludwick, Zack Cozart, Drew Stubbs, Chris Heisey, Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey, Mat Latos, Mike Leake, and Arnoldis Chapman.
Regardless of whether the Reds win the series this year, all of Southern Ohio is a winner. The economic impact is significant with regard to hotels, restaurants, sports bars, and stores that sell Reds paraphernalia.
And the promotional benefits for the region are enormous. Through the years, many corporations have established a presence in Greater Cincinnati thanks, in part, to its major-league attractions. Companies thinking about relocating here want to be sure their employees will be happy, and sporting events such as Reds and Bengals games are part of the equation.
From such a business perspective, the Queen City is also blessed to have cultural institutions such as the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Ballet, Opera, Zoo, Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati Art Museum, and Contemporary Arts Center. Don't forget that the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University are outstanding educational institutions, which also have exciting sports teams and arts programs. And our region's hospitals are world class.
We are a major player -- in sports, the arts, health care, education, and business. Our stadiums, performing arts centers, museums, schools, hospitals, and private enterprises are landmarks that anchor our community.
This season's play of the Cincinnati Reds has given fans something to cheer about. And the team's success has highlighted everything that makes Southern Ohio a great place to live, work, and raise a family.